Inside Nature’s Paintbox: An Autumn Urban Wilderness Hike

Ready to hit the trail! Girls Outside 4-6th graders at the Anderson School trailhead for the Knoxville Urban Wilderness.

Ready to hit the trail! Girls Outside 4-6th graders at the Anderson School trailhead for the Knoxville Urban Wilderness.

A simple question: “What color is that tree?” But this time of year, there’s extra room for creativity in your answer. Our Girls Outside hikers this past weekend decided the tree in question could be described as red, orange, pink, or peachy pink, reflecting the great variety of colors some of the trees were beginning to turn in South Knoxville’s Urban Wilderness. Eight girls, grades 4-6, and 3 Girls Outside Guides trekked from Anderson School to the Chain Ring by way of the Lost Chromosome Trail, a southern portion of the Urban Wilderness Trail. Along the way they used their senses: listening for birds and the wind in the trees, smelling the fragrant inner core of cedar hiking sticks, and touching the leaves of a sensitive partridge pea and watching them curl. They also searched for late autumn wildflowers such as the abundant white and purple asters, the more rare pink and red hearts-a-bustin’ and a few late faded goldenrod.

The girls also met local South Knoxvillian Karen Fletcher on the trail, who shared with the girls about what the Chain Ring area was like when her family owned it, before the Urban Wilderness, when it was used for cattle grazing. Karen also told the girls the story of the James White Parkway extension, a plan to build a road through the beautiful section of the trail the girls were hiking, which was recently cancelled due to public outcry. One of the girls on the hike shared that she had written a letter to TDOT asking them not to build the road.

Many of the girls told us at the end that a hike highlight was a short side-trip we made off the trail into a cedar glade. There the girls found a large surface of exposed and crumbly limestone. The girls discovered fossils, interesting rocks, and “arrowheads”. Since the girls had learned the principles of “Leave No Trace” to take only pictures and leave only footprints, after taking pictures with their finds and making memories, they all carefully returned their special rocks so that the next hikers might find and enjoy them too.

More photos from our hike can be found in our Facebook album!

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